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Automotive Design Students - School’s Out

The next generation of automotive designers is ready to re-ignite our love affair with cars

Ezekiel Wheeler
Jun 19, 2013
Photographer: Alex Bernstein

In a previous issue (EC 2/13) we looked at the work of several automotive design students from both the Royal College of art in London and Art Center in Pasadena, CA. These two institutions offer wonderful courses and have produced some of the greatest designers of our time.

Having experienced the Art Center program firsthand, I've been in the trenches with some of the brightest minds in the automotive design world. Some compare the rigorous program to medical school but without the blood. But I can assure you, blood was spilled during the long hours preparing every presentation and model.

The school operates a year-round trimester system (one term, 14 weeks "on", followed by three-weeks "off"). The transportation design program is broken into eight terms, with the first four foundation terms for sketching, rendering, building clay models, digital models, etc. The remaining four terms are more advanced, where you search for your style and a creative mission. During this part of the education you can look at internships within some of the major design studio around the globe.

01 automotive design students Photo 2/16   |   Automotive Design Students - School’s Out

Art Center has produced the automotive designers who created more than 50% of the cars on the road today, including icons such as Chris Bangle, Chip Foose, Frank Stephenson, Henrik Fisker and Jason Castriata.

The recent Fall 2012 graduating class gave us the opportunity to look in detail at some of our favorite concepts from the new batch of students who might soon determine what we will all be driving in the future.

Wojtek Bachleda

Concept: 2030 Audi quattro Ultra & 2020 Indian Scout

03 automotive design students wojtek bachleda Photo 3/16   |   Automotive Design Students - School’s Out

Internship: 2010 Polaris, 2011 Honda Production & Advanced R&D, 2012 Kiska

The challenge of future urban mobility is something all large cities are looking at, yet few people seem to consider the urbanite might also enjoy the open roads. However, Wojtek dreamed of a vehicle that could enjoy the perks of living in the city without compromising the luxury of owning a canyon carver.

His Audi quattro Ultra project started with an alternative-powered vehicle weight of 1000 lb or less and aimed squarely at the Southern California market. And one of its most radical solutions is that the concept is collapsible and can be stored vertically in the garage of a high-rise. When you have the urge to enjoy the mountains, you simply move the vehicle with its built-in pushcart system and load it onto the nearby metro station in a designated vehicle transport car. Once you arrive at your destination, retrieve your vehicle and push down on the handle so your Audi "pops-up" and locks into place.

The car is approximately the size of a Mazda Miata, constructed from a hollow aluminum space frame with carbon fiber panels. Each wheel contains an electric motor that allows for direct power to the corners and traction in any conditions. The battery pack is part of the sub-structure in the frame, allowing a low center of gravity to optimize handling.

His second concept was also too good to pass up and revisits the early days of motorcycle board track racing but introduces modern technology.

The Scout concept mixed its materials, such as the hand-formed brass seat over a composite frame housing advanced electric turbine motors.

The concept considered all aspects of the board track racing lifestyle, from more complex track layouts to the clothing the riders would wear.

Jennifer Darhy Choy

Concept: 2020 Jaguar Fastback - The New Gentleman

07 automotive design students jennifer darhy choy Photo 7/16   |   Automotive Design Students - School’s Out

Internship: Fisker 2009, Karma concept car

The concept behind "The New Gentleman" (shown on next page) is about an individual refining his pallet, yet Jennifer also wanted to appeal to women, drawing inspiration from the androgynous female form. As such, her Fastback concept is a next generation interpretation of Jaguar's current design language.

Features from Jaguar's heritage can be found in the face, which is derived from the E-Type. Asymmetric lines are said to fit the form like a tailored shirt around the XF chassis.

"The hood resembles the lapel on a man's suit," Jennifer explained. There are also defined rails along the pillars and diminishing compound shapes in the rear quarters. Details like these are rarely seen on student's models and Jennifer went beyond the usual sculpting duties to capture this motion.

08 automotive design students 2020 jaguar fastback Photo 8/16   |   Automotive Design Students - School’s Out
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Aram Aroutunian

Concept: 2020 Mercedes-Benz Time Flies

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Internship: Product design consultancy firm

Mercedes-Benz has been experimenting with progressive design language and technology - look at the recent Ener-G-Force concept vehicle, for example.

While some appreciate the organic interpretation of design aesthetics, many are concerned about their legacy. So Aram chose to look at the DNA Mercedes developed over the past century. His "Time Flies" concept (shown below and opposite) melds styling cues from icons like the Mercedes 300SL with World War 2 fighter planes into a unique silhouette.

The multi-spoke wheels with floating central propellers, for example, are key components to the propulsion system of the vehicle. Each wheel contains a copper-coil magnetic motor that, when in motion, creates energy to power the car. The energy can also be transferred via oscillators for wireless charging to give extended range possibilities.

The overall design is broken into three main features. Firstly, the sweeping cockpit disappears into the rear, providing a feeling of motion when stationary. Secondly, the rocker panel and rear quarters, painted in matte black, draw your eye towards the tail; their exaggerated forms are reminiscent of vintage racecars. Lastly, the shoulders are broad to support the taut surface treatment, providing the car with a performance look.

10 automotive design students 2020 mercedes benz time flies Photo 11/16   |   Automotive Design Students - School’s Out
11 automotive design students 2020 mercedes benz time flies Photo 12/16   |   automotive design students

Alex Alexiav

Concept: 2020 Lamborghini Acenza : A look back to move forward

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Internship: 2010 Polaris, 2011 Volvo NA, 2012 Toyota Japan

As a huge Lamborghini fan, Alex didn't have to look far for inspiration for this bright green concept that considers what might be next for the Italian firm's design direction.

He looked into the past at machinery such as the Lamborghini Miura, Bravo and Marzal. All are iconic concepts penned and sculpted by the Stile Bertone design studio in Turin.

Utilizing the chassis and powertrain from the current Aventador model, Alex draped his form over the "controlled chaos" of the excessively engineered bones.

Keeping the V12 engine hidden under a piece of suspended glass, it sits between vents located behind the rear fender. The rear differential is exposed, while dramatic ducting as well as a race-inspired diffuser help strengthen this car's performance intentions.

You may have noticed the windshield appears to be missing. This was a deliberate attempt to explore the potential uses of liquid crystal polymer glass. In this application, the glass is filled with a gas that reacts to an electrical current. It allows the occupants to control the opacity of the hexagonal cells on the windshield and throughout the vehicle, creating a dramatic and intriguing form in the true Lamborghini tradition.

By Ezekiel Wheeler
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